Rocky Mountain Power President and Chief Executive Officer Richard Walje addressed community and business leaders Friday afternoon during a luncheon. Walje assured those in attendance that the energy company plans to continue its operation and support in the Carbon and Emery county area for many years to come.
PacifiCorp, the parent company to Rocky Mountain Power, currently serves 1.8 million customers in six different states and about 900,000 customers are in Utah alone. Being one of the largest utility companies in the West, Walje indicated that PacifiCorp strives to serve the needs and interests of customers first and foremost.
New federal guidelines and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards have energy companies across the nation working to become compliant on many forefronts. Often times, however, some operating facilities cannot be upgraded to these standards. A prime example of this is the Carbon Plant located at the mouth of Price Canyon near Helper.
After 60 years in operation, the plant will undergo a decommissioning process beginning in 2015. The process is expected to take several years to complete and by the time it is done, there will be little to no trace that a power plant ever existed in that location.
Currently, approximately 70 employees work at the Carbon Plant. Walje assured that all employees will be either offered an early retirement package, transferred to the Huntington or Hunter plants or work on the decommissioning process. “The plant will fall five years short of its life expectancy,” Walje explained. “In fact, it was actually scheduled to close 10 years ago.”
Environmental rules regarding regional haze and mercury emissions forced the decision to decommission the plant.
Walje indicated that by recycling materials within the structure, the company will get as much value as possible to pay for the decommissioning process.
With looming regulations on its doorstep, the energy company expects to transition away from coal power to fuel-powered plants in the future. The transition will be gradual and dependent upon EPA regulations. “I know this is not comforting to a community based on coal, but we will continue to operate in this area as long as we are in compliance,” Walje explained. “We want to run coal as long as we can. Technology is unproven and expensive for natural gas, but we are still looking at the idea. The future is looking toward natural gas power plants.”
The future of Deer Creek Mine is also up in the air. Cindy Crane, vice president of PacifiCorp’s mining division, explained that labor disputes continue between the company and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). These disputes began in 2012 and currently, there is still no resolution. The possibility of a sale or closure of the mine remains, but Crane said that the company continues to look at all options as negotiations continue.
Walje emphasized the importance of Rocky Mountain customers and the communities the company serves. “In 2013, we donated almost $900,000 to communities and issued almost $513,000 in grants,” he stated. “We paid $67.9 million in property taxes in 2013. I don’t see our company decreasing support in the communities we serve even with the closure of the Carbon Plant. Our presence will not be reduced in Carbon and Emery counties.”